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June 23 is International Widow’s Day. And while we’ve come a long way from sati, we have a long way to go! Instead of shaming them, let’s respect them?
Awareness days are often both serious and fun. June 23 is one such serious and fun day. On one hand, it celebrates the contribution of women engineers throughout the world as International Women in Engineering Day. And on the other, it is also International Widow’s Day.
The UN officially launched International Widow’s Day in 2010. With woman achieving equal success in every sector and being the only source of human existence, it is a shame to actually have such an awareness day.
Everyone needs support – financially, mentally or legally when they face trauma or grief. Unfortunately, in many countries with traditional societies, women find themselves left in poverty when their husband dies. Many widows, especially those at the lowest rung of socio-economic ladder rely completely on their children or relatives for all forms of support.
But rather than providing her with the required care and support, she is looked down upon as meaningless, lifeless, and soulless, after the death of her husband. A husband is definitely a pillar of the family, a strong support system for his wife and children. But does it require a woman to choose the status of a ‘widow’ when he dies and she chooses not to remarry? What is more heartbreaking is even with the title of ‘widow,’ she is deprived of her rights.
When we analyse this scenario clearly, a widower is not prone to any abuses or legal issues (in terms of property) Is it just because a ‘widow’ is woman, she undergoes all these hardships?
The death of her husband exposes her to a lot of difficulties including financial, social, physical, sexual, emotional and societal harassment. India is also one of the countries where these women find themselves denied of inheritance and land rights, evicted from their homes. They are ostracised and abused.
In this modern era, a widow doesn’t perform sati but she is made to mourn until her death. It’s not that the widows in rural areas face these problems, even in the urban areas, the society’s outlook towards a widow is often the same. They are still harsh on these women.
Often widows are not allowed to remarry by their family or community. Simply because the family considers it an offence even if the laws pertaining to such jurisdictions legalise remarriages. If a widow wishes to be single it should be only by her choice.
In India, there is a city which is the home for thousands of destitute widows, the holy city of Vrinthavan (Uttar Pradesh) This place is often considered to be the ‘The City of Widows.’ A number of women seek refuge here every year. And since they basically have no ways to earn, every day is a challenge for them. What’s more pathetic is the fact that India ranks number one as a country with the largest number of widows.
It is the need of the hour to have widow rehabilitation centres to educate these women about their legal rights and healthcare. They also need counselling and aids to help them be independent and employable. Families need to help these women emotionally and psychologically. Even though the government offers some financial aid to them, they need emotional support from their families too.
If she receives support from her family, she will start believing in herself and have the ability to break barriers and emerge strong despite trauma. The question remains if we are aware of how to treat a woman with dignity, regardless of her marital status.
Whether she is married, unmarried, a widow, has never been married, separated or even divorced, she is a human. She, too, deserves the same rights and freedoms that every human does. Once we realise this, I believe, we won’t need such awareness days!
Picture credits: Still from Deepa Mehta’s movie Water
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